Ever try to make a quick stop at a fast food place just to use the restroom—but then find out the bathroom is locked and you have to buy something before they’ll give you the key?
On a long trip last year, I encountered this problem. I went to the counter to buy an obligatory soda and ask the man for the restroom key, whereupon he vented his frustrations.
Turns out, this man’s burger place was across the street from a park where a number of homeless people stayed. They would use his restroom to clean up, thus making it unavailable to customers.
On one level, I could understand the business owner’s frustrations—but he said something which bothered me deeply.
“You know how homeless are.”
His remark has stayed with me as an example of an attitude I hope to always avoid as a life-affirming Christian.
Anytime we say, “You know how ‘they’ are,” we display our prejudices. We treat another group of people as somehow having less value than we do.
What does all of this have to do with being pro-life?
When we talk about the sanctity of human life, we most often equate that concept with life in the womb. Our focus is on fighting abortion and saving preborn lives.
Certainly, the nine months of gestation are a critical time in the life of every person. The unborn are among the most vulnerable, weak, helpless population on the planet.
That’s why we dedicate precious hours to the cause of life. That’s why we pray that abortion would become unthinkable. That’s why we give to the mission. We’re troubled by the existence of legal abortion in our nation and around the world. We believe preborn children deserve our protection.
We believe in the sanctity of human life.
Here’s the thing, though: believing in the sanctity of human life is bigger than simply believing life should be protected in the womb.
The sanctity of human life has to do with seeing equal value in every person and offering honor and dignity to every human being—born or unborn, young or old, male or female, homeless or homeowner.
The sanctity of human life is an imago Dei issue.
We stand against abortion due to our belief that every human being is uniquely created in the image of God. We are compelled to protect the vulnerable and to speak for those who have no voice.
By the same logic, we must stand against any and all forms of oppression and prejudice and offer protection to the marginalized and powerless.
Wherever we see evidence of an “us vs. them” mentality—whenever we encounter people around whom we feel uncomfortable—we have an opportunity to speak and act in a way that brings life, truth and blessing where there has been prejudice, suspicion and fear.
Tweet This: How the sanctity of life motivates us to love others at every stage of life. @SusanneMaynes #prolife
I can think of a number of people groups in our society whom we might be tempted to treat as less-than, or at least, from whom we tend to keep our distance.
We can’t fight for the preborn while ignoring, avoiding or looking down at other groups of people.
All human beings have intrinsic value. All are worthy of love.
I’m not suggesting we attempt to put time, effort and finances into strategically ministering to all people at all times.
I’m talking about an attitude.
I spent 10 years at a pregnancy center ministering to women and couples facing unplanned pregnancies. Some of those moms changed their minds about abortion, and some of those children are now in fifth grade.
In a few short years, they’ll be adults.
Let’s say one of the “changed mind” conversations resulted in the birth of a girl named Jenna.
Jenna’s mom is single and poor. Her friends and relatives do drugs. Jenna grows up in this challenging environment and makes some poor choices.
Let’s say I run across Jenna a few years from now, without recognizing her. She’s dropped out of high school, struggles with substance abuse and is homeless.
Wouldn’t it be a terrible irony if I thought to myself, Oh, no, one of those homeless people. They just need to make better choices.
Wouldn’t it be tragically inconsistent for me to look down at a person whose life I helped save before she was ever born?
I cared about her then. I prayed earnestly for her safety and wellbeing. Can I do any less now?
This is about love, isn’t it?
The love of the Father for all His precious image-bearers. The love of Christ for all sinners. The love by which Christians are recognizable to the world.
So, here’s a thought for 2018: What if, this year, you stretch your perception of being pro-life a little wider? What if you ask God to help you reach out with kindness and understanding to just one group of people you’ve avoided or ignored in the past?
Maybe it’s a group of people. Maybe a specific person comes to mind.
Whoever that may be, this is my prayer for you and me:
Father, may 2018 be an imago Dei year in my heart. Help me see others with your eyes. Help me reach out to those who are different from me. You’ve given me compassion for the unborn; give me compassion for many more of Your image-bearers as well. This I ask for the honor of Your great name. Amen.